Key Concepts/Issues

Outline key concepts in Sound Design: the ‘semiotics’ of sound; different media forms and sound; deconstructing sonic experiences; audio fundamentals; the interplay between the sonic and visual.

The interplay of sound and the moving image.

In this post I will begin analysing and explaining the use of sound in film, in order to begin thinking about audio, how it contributes to different forms of media, and how it is used to affect an audience.

This research (analysing the sound effects used in certain film scenarios of varying genres) helped me greatly in developing an initial understanding of the use of audio in different genres and settings.

I have included several embedded videos with descriptions/analysis below:

Carrie – bloodbath scene

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Tension: high, leading to a big climax

Emotion: Uneasiness, Sadness, Fear

Style of sound: Strings/orchestral, dripping, play on specific sounds while other sounds are muted

In this Iconic scene from the horror classic by Stephen King, the main character, Carrie, has just been voted prom queen when a prank has been set up to tip a bucket of pig’s blood over her head. The music builds up tension as an onlooking character discovers the string attached to the bucket leading under the stage, with the sound changing from cheery dream like music when the excited Carrie is on screen and then returning to tense and edgy when the string or bucket is in focus.

When the prank is finally pulled everything goes silent and the perspective is switched to focus primarily on Carrie, covered in blood. At first people look on in silence, and then begin to point and laugh, but as they do so, the sound remains mute aside from the dripping of the pigs blood. When the sound finally sinks back in, Carrie snaps, violently locking all of the students into the gym, and the massacre begins on sharp, edgy and extremely tense music.

The OC – Death of Marissa

Genre: drama

Tension: High building up to a climax and settling in a depression

Emotion: Fear, Sadness

Style of sound: Acapella

Another Iconic scene, this time from TV show the OC, in an episode that ended the story for many viewers. The main characters are chased and barged by another vehicle (driven by another angry character from the show)

The main sounds are of the cars engines and the clashing of metal as they hit each other under the screams of the characters and their dialogue between one another.

The scene then reaches a climax when the car is tipped off the road and the sounds quiet down into silence as the main protagonist carries his dying love interest out of the car and down the road while the engine explodes in the silence, broken only by an acapella cover of the song “hallelujah” as the protagonist’s girlfriend begins to die in his arms.

Psycho – Shower scene

Genre: horror/thriller

Tension: High

Emotion: fear, desperation, terror

Style of sound: High pitched strings and screaming

In possibly the most well known horror scene of all time, the woman in the shower is killed by a knife wielding psychopath. The sounds in this scene are fairly simple as are the visuals, however they are very effective for creating fear and tension, the repetitive high screeching chords alongside the sound of the victim’s screams make this scene especially frightening.

The Matrix – Dodge this

Genre: action

Tension: moderate

Emotion: excitement

Style of sound: high tech weaponry sound effects

The matrix has a great story and dozens of brilliant action scenes, but one of the things that really emphasise the excitement of this action thriller is the sounds of the bullets speeding past the main protagonist as he moves at lightning speed. this along with the busy and chaotic sounds of gunfire that are present throughout a lot of the film help to capture this highly dangerous technologically advanced environment.

The dark knight – Hospital scene

Genre: action, thriller, comedy

Tension: More shock than tension

Emotion: shock

Style of sound: Simple but explosive

This is one of the many memorable scenes from Batman:The dark knight, in which the joker casually blows up a hospital dressed as a nurse. The scene uses very few sounds, first of all the mumbling of the joker to himself as he proceeds to blow up parts of he building while he is still inside followed by the string of loud explosions, and just as they cease the joker shakes around his detonator pressing the button a few more times, and is jumped by the final bang.

The Grudge – Bed scene

Genre: horror

Tension: high

Emotion: fear, terror

Style of sound: minimalistic

One of the great things about the film “The grudge” was the way it made that gurgling noise you can make in your throat sound utterly terrifying. In this scene a woman is stalked by “the grudge”, the remnants of a dark energy from when a Japanese family was murdered in their home by the husband/father. She walks to her flat in silence and is harassed by visions of a friend who is not really present before her phone begins loudly groaning in the signature fashion of the grudge curse. As she returns to her flat she hides under her covers, only to find the groaning poltergeist underneath her bed sheets, groaning again.

References: See bibliography [click here]


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